Why Can't New York Mets' Reliever Francisco Rodriguez Pitch in a Tie Game?

Joseph DelGrippoAnalyst IMay 3, 2009

NEW YORK - APRIL 29:  Francisco Rodriguez #75 of the New York Mets delivers a pitch against the Florida Marlins on April 29, 2009 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Marlins defeated the Mets 4-3.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Just when I thought Joe Girardi was the only New York manager who made his on field moves based upon what talk radio callers and pundits are calling for, Jerry Manuel does things that make me believe he, too, listens to talk radio.  

I don't listen to WFAN much, but I do want to hear both managers shows, which are on once a week to hear what they are thinking. I usually listen via the online podcast.

During the last week or so Manuel has done his media gigs, appeared with Mike Francesca's WFAN show where Big Mike heaped praise on Manuel for "not overusing the back end of the bullpen," and giving necessary rest to JJ Putz and K-Rod so they will be fresh for the entire season. Also, many newspaper guys and Mets bloggers were saying the same thing.

"We need to have these guys fresh for the stretch run and can't burn them out too soon," is the motto. 

Except for one appearance so far, it appears that K-Rod is strictly a three-out, 9th inning with a lead guy and that's it.

And that is ridiculously so wrong! 

But according to Manuel that will not be the case. However, although Manuel talks a good game, his actions are much louder than words.
While watching the game yesterday, it appeared the bottom of the 10th was the perfect time for K-Rod to pitch, because as Manuel (regarding K-Rod) said in the linked article above, "We are not necessarily identifying saves. We're identifying wins and losses."

Stop the other Philadelphia Phillies (you know them—they are the defending World Series Champions) from scoring in the 10th and you you have a better chance of winning.

Then why did Manuel start Sean Green in the bottom of the 10th inning instead of bringing in K-Rod to shut down the Phillies for one, maybe two innings? Green has been brutal recently as two of his last three full innings appearances have been multiple runs affairs with multiple walks in each case. Actually, Green hasn't been good for his career.

Meanwhile, Darren O'Day has been pretty good since he was released by Omar Minaya.

If it is all about winning, then give your team the best shot at winning—and the best shot at the Mets winning was to hold the Phillies scoreless in the 10th. K-Rod could have gotten two innings in before his turn came up to bat.

Or, if you only want to go one inning with K-Rod and you are worried about no one else left on the bench to pinch hit (one reason not to take out Murphy too early), Livan Hernandez could be used as a pinch hitter for a light hitting pitcher or Livan could even be used for several innings in a long extra-inning game.

Also, if K-Rod exited the game after one inning and then the Mets take the lead later on, hard throwing Brian Stokes is available to close.

And Jerry: if you are worried that the precious K-Rod will then have pitched on two days in a row, then lets look at a little history.

Francisco Rodriguez has been a full time reliever for the Angels since 2003 and in those 6 full seasons (2003-2008), he has averaged 69 appearances per season.  

Last season, K-Rod appeared in 13 games during April including five times on back to back days, and once three days in a row. In 2007, K-Rod appeared in 12 April games, again five times back to back and TWICE going three days in a row.

In 2006, he made 11 appearances in April, one time back to back but never three consecutive days.

During the 2006 and 2007 seasons, K-Rod also appeared in back to back games in April, where the second game was a multi-inning appearance.

Amazingly, after all of that work Rodriguez' arm has not fallen off! Plus, with all those appearances early in his career (and K-Rod is still only 27), he has not had any arm issues. If he does get hurt now, it certainly wouldn't be because he was used two days in a row early in the season.

Questions abound. Why can't K-Rod pitch on back to back days (or more than one inning) early in the season for the Mets? K-Rod has yet to throw two straight days, JJ Putz has now done it only twice and Putz' two inning stint yesterday was the first multi-inning stint for either of the "back end guys."

Why is it necessary for Putz and K-Rod to be rested early in the year so they can be "fresh" for late in the season? If you lose games now, will late in the season even matter?

Why has Manuel talked one way about winning, then manage another way to save people for certain situations? Manuel is starting to manage out of fear of injury and media retribution, and not from common baseball sense - which dictates to win the game you are currently playing in.

Time to use K-Rod more often. Not just a save situation or even when the Mets have a lead, but to also hold a team from scoring. If he is your best relief pitcher back there, he should be used over the mediocre Green when the game is on the line.

Also in that article linked earlier, "I was as guilty of that at one point as anybody else," Manuel said of using his closer in a role defined by the save statistic. "I'm trying to also train myself in the importance of just winning the ballgame, more than what we get out of it statistically. If I preach one thing, I've got to walk the same way."

Time to put the money where the mouth is Jerry.